Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Skeletons in the closet, sprawling ownership stymie Gulf bank consolidation

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Anyone waiting for Gulf banks to consolidate — a long talked about prospect — can forget about it for now.

With debt markets shut, leaving only pricey equity financing, budding suitors are standing frozen, unable to make a commitment.

But the lack of reasonable financing for mergers is not the only obstacle, according to Frederick Stonehouse, head of strategic mergers and acquisitions at Bahrain’s Unicorn Investment Bank .

Valuing the assets of privately-owned banks, the best candidates for consolidation, is no easy task.

Tax evaders on the run

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  By Neil Chatterjee
    The U.S. has promised it will hunt down tax evaders.
    And it seems tax evaders are on the run.
    DBS bank, based in the growing offshore financial centre of
Singapore, told Reuters it had been approached by U.S. citizens
asking for its private banking services. But when told they would
have to sign U.S. tax declaration forms, the potential clients
disappeared.  
    Swiss banks also approached DBS on the hope they could
offload troublesome U.S. clients to a location that so far has
not been reached by the strong arms of Washington or Brussels.
    DBS said no thanks. In fact many private banks and boutique
advisors now seem to be avoiding U.S. clients.
    Will this spread to other nationalities, as governments
invest in tax spies and tax havens invest in white paint?
    Is this the end of offshore private private banking?

Geneva is for wealth management

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Even for an American who’s not wealthy, Geneva has a reputation as a global centre for wealth management – the place the world’s rich come to stash their money and (they hope) make it grow.

    But you don’t necessarily expect it to be so aggressive — after all, the rich tend to be demure when it comes to their banking.

Debt collecting gets…er, sexy?

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Bank employees working in call centers and reminding clients of their overdue loans used to be as far to the bottom of the banking food chain as you could be. Not any more.

Raiffeisen International, the second-biggest lender in eastern Europe, has ramped up staff in its collections and risk management departments.

Nomura: Lehman taking shape

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Nomura’s takeover of Lehman Brothers’ European and Asia businesses is yielding results, and concerns the Japanese bank will struggle to marry cultures is misplaced, according to the man who drove the deal.

“It’s a very successful start and we’ve been happy with what we’ve got,” Takumi Shibata, chief operating officer for Nomura, told the Reuters Japan Investment Summit in Tokyo.

Asia still a wealth of wealth players

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A few years ago, domestic and international financial players were chomping at the bit to lure Mrs. Watanabe’s millions of yen or fellow Asians’ yuan, won or dollar holdings from their futons or equal-interest savings accounts.

The global financial crisis in the last year has sparked a rejigging of foreign institutions’ expectations about Asian wealth and their own ability to attract it, with some opting out of the game altogether.

Bankers’ chief says “vilification” of bankers tough to take

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As the president of the American Bankers Association, Edward Yingling has soaked up a lot of criticism of the nation’s bankers in the past year. He has also had to work many hours to fight to ensure that crisis measures by the government don’t cause long-term damage to his members. But the one thing he has had difficulty in coping with is the assault on banking as a profession and links made by politicians and the media between any financial institution that has problems and bankers. He told the Reuters Global Financial Regulation Summit on Tuesday he is angry about the “vilification of the banking industry” given that many bankers had nothing to do with creating the financial crisis. He said the word “bank” appeared in stories in which it didn’t belong. “AIG was not actually a bank,” he said.

Mind you, Yingling remains uncompromising when pushed on how much banks are to blame for the events of the past two years. While acknowledging that some of his members made mistakes, he blames accounting rules that forced banks to value their investments at market levels, even if that didn’t reflect their longer-term value, for much of the damage to the financial system. And, he says, it was liquidity problems and a loss of confidence that caused a bank like Wachovia to be rescued more than the weak quality of the mortgage assets held by Golden West, which it bought in 2006. If anyone is looking for apologies — they won’t get them from this direction.

Central Europeans frown at state bank ownership

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Talk in western Europe of possibly nationalising private banks to save them from the credit crisis is sending shivers down the spine of policymakers in ex-communist central Europe.

They remember how their government controlled financial systems completely collapsed in the 1990s and threatened to take the countries’ economies along with them due to pouring money into firms with little prospect of returning it.

The credit crisis is affecting us all…

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rtr1pjb9.jpgSpare a thought for the mega-rich.

While the man or woman on the street cuts back on non-essential spending as the value of their home falls and they worry more about whether or not they will keep their job, so too multi-millionaires are feeling the pinch.

Javier Arus Castillo, general manager of Santander Private Banking International, explains.

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